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Swag (2004)

Swag (2004)

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3.82 of 5 Votes: 1
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0753819643 (ISBN13: 9780753819647)
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About book Swag (2004)

So this is where Tarantino found his inspiration! A good read. Often it doesn’t feel like a crime novel so much as like one of those low-key dirty realist novels by authors like Frederick Barthelme, about people with humdrum lives to whom nothing much exciting happens (which is exactly what makes those books feel so realist!) – except that this is about two guys who are on an armed robbery spree. It has everything Leonard is always praised for: very good, very lifelike dialogue, which seeps into the narrative text in well-judged doses by his brilliant use of free indirect speech, very light, almost lackadaisical plotting (which is a very dangerous thing to do, because this too makes the narrative feel more realist, but if you don’t get the balance right the story loses its point: why tell it, if there’s nothing to tell?). And because the two start out with a list of ten rules they have to adhere to, variously called the Ten Commandments or the ten rules for succes, it’s also a bit of a parody on the standard American self help handbook.And Leonard is also very good on the weird bromance of these two guys who decide to throw in their lot with each other: it’s not quite the odd couple (the humour is much more subdued), but the little frictions do remind us (and remind the characters themselves) of a long marriage.And I guess now I also know where Tarantino got some of his ideas, like that of a hold-up of a bar being foiled by the armed criminals who are more dangerous than the actual stick-up guy (the opening of Pulp Fiction). Or criminals having totally irrelevant conversations while they’re waiting for the shootup they know is about to take place. Here they’re waiting in a gym before going to a meeting they already know will end in violence:'It might not be a bad idea,' Frank said. 'Work out two, three times a week, get some steam or a sauna.''I could never do pushups and all that shit,' Stick said. 'I don't know, it sounds good, but it's so fucking boring. The thing to do, just don't eat so much.''I don't eat much,' Frank said.'You drink too much. You know how many calories are in a shot? What you put away, those doubles, it's a couple of full meals.''What do you do, count my drinks?''I can't,' Stick said. 'I can't count that fast.'

I picked this up not knowing it was written in 1976; the synopsis on the back is what made me take it home since I figured it was time I gave Leonard a try. I intended to buy "Get Shorty", I think, but the bookstore was sold out of it so I grabbed this instead. It was the synopsis that got me, but more than that it was the Boston Globe quote on the back describing Leonard's prose as being "lean and shifty," which is exactly what I wanted to take a loot at since I'm working on achieving the same kind of atmosphere in one of my current projects.At any rate, I had a great time with this book. I wanted to get a look at how real men act, think, and behave, both on the page and with one another. The dialogue between the main guys, Ryan and Stick, was entertaining, witty, and above all, it was real. I've heard that Leonard is a master at dialogue, and I would have to agree. I also enjoyed--although as I said, this wasn't something I anticipated--the time warp back to a period pre-dating cell phones, cars with automatic locks, and video cameras in every store, hallway, alleyway, and elevator. I think the total lack of instant communication made the tension so much higher for me, watching the players in action hoping and praying for nothing strange to mess up the heist, and of course, not to get caught.Would definitely recommend this book to others, whether crime fiction is your thing or not. Leonard is a terrific writer.

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SWAGBy Elmore Leonard"What's the best way to make a lot of money fast? Without working, that is."Ah, if only Ernest Stickley, aka Stick, had never asked that question. He would've saved himself a lot of trouble, because Frank Ryan had the answer. But of course, if Stick had never asked the question, Elmore Leonard wouldn't've written SWAG, a fast-moving 1976 novel about two small-time criminals on the make in Detroit.Frank's answer to the question: "Armed robbery." And immediately he and Stick spin off into a life of knocking over liquor stores and supermarkets.They do pretty well, actually, because they follow Frank's Ten Rules For Success And Happiness. These rules include Always be polite on the job, Never flash money in a bar, Never tell anyone your business, and so on. The two of them live well, spending most of their free time hanging out at the pool of their apartment complex, hitting on "broads".But then they get greedy, and well...rules are meant to be broken, aren't they? Or maybe just bent a little?Leonard plies the reader with his incomparable style and sharp ear for dialogue, as he takes us into stolen cars with Frank and Stick, then right into their heads as they pull job after job. The reader might as well be riding in the back seat, or maybe even be their getaway driver. I almost felt like I deserved a cut of each score, so intimately did I know these two.The breezy pace of the novel takes them (and us) around the Detroit area through all of their criminal shenanigans. A couple of bodies show up, but hey, it couldn't be helped, right? When they pay a visit to Sportree, a shadowy owner of a ghetto bar, Stick doesn't like him. "Colored guys" make him nervous, you know. Frank assures him Sportree can be trusted, and the first cracks in their partnership appear.SWAG is vintage Leonard, an excellent story of honor among thieves, and a worthwhile read for crime fiction lovers.
—Mike Dennis

When used car salesman Frank Ryan catches Ernest Stickley stealing a car off his lot, ideas start going through his head. Soon, Ryan and Stickley are armed robbers and damn good ones. Things go smoothly until someone offers them a crack at even bigger money...Like many Elmore Leonard books, Swag is a fast-moving crime story. The two main characters, Ryan and Stick, are cast from one of Leonard' standard molds: the criminals who aren't as smart as they think they are. They're a bit of an odd couple. Stick's nervous and not all that confident while Ryan is overconfident and thinks he knows everything. They were pretty likeable as far as armed robbers go but I kept thinking about how Richard Stark's Parker would mop the floor with them.The bad guys were suitably bad, both Sportree and the cops. As he does a lot of the time, Leonard makes the antagonists almost as interesting as the protagonists. Once complications start surfacing, they come in droves, (view spoiler)[from Arlene witnessing one of their early robberies, to Stick having to shoot two men, to Billy Ruiz. (hide spoiler)]
—Dan Schwent

Frank, a used-car salesman, decides Earnest; who likes to be called Stick; might be useful to know, so rather than ID-ing him in court, helps get an auto-theft case thrown out.Frank and Earnest. A meeting ensues. Agreement that they can make a comfortable living by sticking to Frank's ten rules; and they do just that.They stick-up bottle-shops, liquor stores, convenience stores, etc, small stuff with low risk that gives them the few thou's they need to live comfortably in a decent apartment block. And the fact that half a dozen of the local denizens happen to be young women who like to decorate the pool only helps to pass the time..Then Frank hears of a major department store robbery going down, something worth twenty times the small, penny-anti stuff they've been dealing with and, against Stick's better judgement, they make plans with a wily night club owner, Sportree.With plans too loosely made and the odd double-cross, not to mention shooting some bad characters, it looks like Frank and Stick might get away with it.All they need is the help of Stick's new girl friend...
—Quentin Feduchin

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